Arts

Singer-songwriter Emily Barker is on the road to Belfast

Australian folk/Americana singer-songwriter Emily Barker has had her music used as the theme music for TV drama Wallander and now in a film starring Peter Mullan. Ahead of gigs in Belfast and Co Derry, she talks to Brian Campbell

Emily Barker plays Limavady on January 9 and two gigs in Belfast on January 10

EMILY Barker has travelled the world and now she has written songs for a film based around a different kind of voyager – a homeless man (played by Peter Mullan) who makes his way across Scotland and England.

Originally from Bridgetown in Western Australia, Barker has spent time in Brazil, has travelled across Europe and has been based in England for over a decade now.

As well as forming three bands – The Low Country, Vena Portae and The Red Clay Halo – she has had her songs used as themes to TV thrillers Wallander and The Shadow Line. Her career took off after she got noticed by the influential BBC DJ John Peel.

“I first went travelling in 2000 and travelled a lot in Europe and was in Canada and spent six months in Brazil. I got a two-year working visa for the UK and formed The Low Country in Cambridge shortly before my visa expired. We did a little recording and after I went back to Australia the guitarist sent it in to John Peel and he loved it and he played our nine-minute version of Oh! Susanna. So that was the beginning of it all.”

With her lovely voice and her distinctive brand of folk/roots/Americana, Barker has a habit of making people sit up and take notice – which is how she ended up getting the Wallander theme and also the Peter Mullan film, Hector.

“I was playing a house party in 2007 or something and Martin Phipps, who’s a great composer, was writing the music for Wallander and heard my song Nostalgia and must have thought it would have fitted. So he called me and asked if I could come into a studio and do a new recording of it. It’s a great thing to be associated with.”

Barker was performing live on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show a couple of years ago when Jake Gavin, the director of Hector, happened to tune in.

“Dermot brought me on because he had heard my song Nostalgia, the theme for Wallander. He asked me, 'So is film and television stuff something you’d like to do more of?’ and I said yes and Jake happened to be listening. I got an email from him a couple of days later asking if I would read the script.”

The songs are superb and are available as an EP called Anywhere Away, named after the title track. Barker will be in Belfast on Sunday for two events as part of the Out To Lunch festival. She will perform with Ciaran Lavery at 2pm and then do an evening gig tied in with a screening of Hector at 7.30pm.

“I’ll perform before the screening and do a few of the songs from the film,” she says. “Then I’ll do some of my own songs, ones that relate to the subject matter and Hector’s story, because I have quite a few songs about travel and the question of home.”

Barker and Lavery will also play the Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre in Limavady on Saturday night. The singer says her band The Red Clay Halo have called it a day after nine years.

Last year she recorded an album of solo versions of her songs (The Toerag Sessions) at the famous Toerag studio in London with Grammy-winning producer Liam Watson (The White Stripes).

“When I was in The Red Clay Halo, I still did a lot of solo touring and people would ask if there was a solo version of those songs available. So it partly came from that and then it was also kind of drawing the line under the Red Clay Halo stuff,” says Barker.

She has also recorded an album along with Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace under the name Applewood Road.

“That’s coming out next month; I’m really happy with it. I was having coffee with Amy in Nashville. We had arranged to write together and she invited her friend Amber along and the three of us ended up writing a song called Applewood Road.

“We were just going to leave it at that but everybody that we played the song to said 'You should make an album’ – so we kind of accidentally formed a band.”

:: Emily Barker & Ciaran Lavery play Limavady tomorrow and Belfast’s Black Box on Sunday at 2pm. Emily will also play the Black Box on Sunday at 7.30pm, featuring a film screening of Hector (cqaf.com / emilybarker.com).

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Arts